West Indies v India, 1st Test, Kingston, 4th day June 23, 2011

Plenty of smoke, but no fire in the Caribbean

West Indies' bowlers put up a fight in Kingston, but the batsmen are doing an injustice to the team's glorious past

As Shivnarine Chanderpaul lobbed a tame catch to cover, a man named Carlton Christian slumped in his chair in the press box at Sabina Park and buried his face in his palms. Christian is a service provider, an attendant, in the press box. He is tall, well built, and looks like a guy you wouldn't want to run into down one of Kingston's dark alleys. He looks flattened now. His eyes are red; he gets up slowly, walks to the restroom and slams the door shut. When he emerges I ask him whether he is okay. "It's painful man. Sometimes I get very angry. Sometimes I get very disappointed. Can't they play even one day of good Test cricket?"

Surely, after 15 years of watching their team slump from one low to another, West Indian fans would have become comfortably numb, if not downright cynical. Some of them have. Christian, though, isn't one of them, and he isn't alone. "They fought a bit. And so I thought …," he trails off, revealing how his hopes were raised and then quickly punctured.

West Indies did fight in the Test, but only in patches and most often, if not always, the resistance came from the bowlers, with both ball and bat. This pitch wasn't easy to bat on of course and even for India just two specialist batsmen played well but this has been the story of West Indies cricket for a while now.

The best phase for West Indies at Sabina Park came when Fidel Edwards rattled the debutant Virat Kohli with a series of sharp bouncers on the second evening. It was stirring to watch. The ball flew towards the head and ribcage of Kohli, who jumped clumsily and was hit on the forearm once. Kohli's senior partner, Rahul Dravid, walked across to have a word, the fielders moved in, the crowd found their lungs, the transistor crackled in their ears, and there was the buzz of a battle in the air.

It was Edwards again, along with Rampaul and Bishoo, who delayed India's victory on the fourth day, playing gutsy knocks to frustrate the bowlers. Those phases of play were a window into West Indies' glorious cricketing past.

The present, though, cruelly intervened at other moments, reminding everyone of how dire the state of West Indies' batting is these days. The calypso has turned into a dirge. Ramnaresh Sarwan is batting from memory, while Darren Bravo is prone to forgetting the basics at times. Adrian Barath is yet to mature, and Lendl Simmons is yet to learn the art of converting starts. Shivnarine Chanderpaul is now as well known for the strips under his eyes as the excess baggage he carries on his shoulders from his tiffs with the board. Brendan Nash clearly needs more match practice, and Carlton Baugh and Darren Sammy both seem to have plenty of ambition without the skills to match it.

And the mess extends beyond the field of play. Chris Gayle is in the stands, he is at Courtney Walsh's restaurant, he is on the radio, he is at the hair salon, he is in the newspapers, he is in the media releases, he is on Twitter, but he is not where he should be - on the cricket pitch. Sammy's position as captain is constantly questioned. He is asked about why he didn't go to the West Indies Players Association's awards, whether he asked the players not to attend them, whether he is just a puppet of the board, does he fit into the Test XI, can't he score runs, can't he do this, can't he do that? Chanderpaul is asked to meet the board before a Test match. There is plenty of smoke clouding West Indies cricket, but little fire out on the pitch.

Meanwhile, the attitude of the men who brought glory to West Indies cricket in the past ranges from disgust to hopeless acceptance. Richie Richardson, now team manager, unwinds from this mess by playing rhythm guitar. Desmond Haynes, batting consultant to the team, must be tearing his hair out. Another former Test player, now blowing his life away on drugs, says he can't watch this cricket because the "quality is poor". Former Test players reminisce about the old days; nostalgia is a good way to forget the present.

The fans seem almost apologetic. On the third day, when Dravid was approaching his hundred, a section of the crowd turned to say, "Sorry about this lack of fight. Sorry about our cricket."

In 2000, during India's disastrous tour of Australia, Robert Craddock, a journalist, wrote: "Come on India. Get angry. Get aggressive. Shake a leg. Fight back. For goodness sake, do something." It would be unfair to say that sentence applies to the whole of the West Indies team. Their bowlers shook their fists, pounded their legs, and did nearly everything possible to put India under pressure. Even Sammy, a man who has to prove he belongs in Test cricket, took four wickets in the second innings. Edwards, making a comeback having replaced Kemar Roach, breathed aggression. Ravi Rampaul has skill and fight, and Bishoo belongs, and knows that he belongs, at Test level. The bowlers fought hard even with the bat and rarely give up tamely. Russell and Roach did it in the ODIs and now Rampaul and Bishoo in the Tests.

The specialist batsmen, however, let all those efforts dissolve into inconsequence with their indiscipline. Perhaps people overreact when they talk about how poor West Indies cricket is today. But it is only because the past was so great. That is what causes so much sadness. Without the romance of the past, perhaps the present wouldn't hurt as much. However, for the fans who still cling on to hope, for the ex-players who still turn up at games, for the sake of providing a decent contest, it's time the West Indies batsmen shook a leg and did something.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 18:20 GMT

    Dravid has shown us why he is a GREAT batter. At 38yrs of age, he is still winning matches for India. A great batsman wins matches for his team consistently. He makes runs when others fail. Great cricketers win matches with the bat or the ball. S/times we bat to win, s/times we bowl to win. The last test we had to bat to win & our stars let us down, as they have been doing for the past 10 yrs. And so the Board has decided to rebuild, at any cost. THE tailenders showed us that the wicket had no devil, yet SHIV & SARS couldn,t give us 50 runs each. India won by 63 runs.Should we criticize Sammy or the Board? U tell me!

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 17:41 GMT

    I donno weather anyone noticed it or not. dravid has become the highest run getter against West Indies in West Indies.

  • Shakil on June 26, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    The concept of batting has changed so much that that a spinner who bowls with containing line and yet attack are more successful than the one turn more and gives more air,though Bhajji made his overall contribution so did Mishra but bowled average to say the least,Bhajji can't be called India's # 1 spinner secondly with India's top order not in for the tests I think Murali Vijay would have been given chance to play in one dayers to find his feat , Indian opening batting looks least secure , exposing Dravid in every game is never a good idea, Laxman is a late starter and second inning hero for all seasons means Indian have to be careful coz Dhoni ,Raina never are different batsmen in tests , Kohli will take little time to get in , once he is in, he will be as good as anyone in the world, all he require is one good inning of 78/80 , over all not a convincing victory , it was more of victory handed over than achieved

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    You are unfair on WI batsman. They put up a good fight in the second innings against the canny Praveen Kumar and Ishant. They took care of Mishra and Bajji on a turning wicket. What about the bowlers who got India off the hook in the first and second innings after clearing up the top order?

  • trevor on June 25, 2011, 22:37 GMT

    West Indies surrendered the first test to INDIA at Sabina Park after showing what the future holds; Troubled is We need them now. The game is being played in the moment--here and now.Barath, Bravo,Simmons & Baugh to play every ball on it,s merit.Leadership is needed from the senior players on the team, you are obligated to set the winning "SPIRIT" on the field,not just Sammy. Rampaul, Roach, Bishoo, Edwards,have performed admirable with bat & ball;On the other hand Sarwan, Nash Chanders must lift their game.Surely the selectors must be looking to make changes to put a balance 11 on the field,Sarwan and Nash--seemed to be really out of form--Respectively Marlon Samuels and Kemar Roach seems likely to return--specialist batsman and bowler, also WI need to get a report from Greenidge re: Ramdin,s progress or lack of.Gayle and Benn,s status need to be dealt with by players and board--they still have playing years ahead of them.Goodluck WI-- you can win.

  • eng on June 25, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    is'nt it irony that dhoni and bcci r criticizing the poor umpiring decision based on the tv replays,which they in the first instance don't believe r accurate.so why crib and accept that the umpiring decision is correct and tv replays incorrect.or get in line with other countries who have accepted the udrs,and stop cribbing.

  • Subba on June 25, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    I am one of those who'd like to see the West Indians rise and rule once again. The batting has to fall into place quickly. The reason why I like the team is their spirit. They are true sportsmen, who play with a smile and enjoy their game. The most dreaded fast bowlers of WI were alll good sportsmen who never sledged. They didnt need sledging - nor did they need favourable umpires, like the Aussies always needed both. Just Chris Gayle coming back now should be adequate to win them a Test against India.

  • Hildreth on June 25, 2011, 5:49 GMT

    RUSSELL MUST COME IN FOR NASH IN ORDER FOR WEST INDIES TO WIN IN BARBADOS. Nash is way short on runs this season; he had problems with Pakistan spin and now Indian spin. It therefore makes sense to OMIT Nash from 13 selected for 2nd test and bring in Andre Russell who HITS THE DECK HARD and brings the ball back into right-handers. He also provides a 5th bowling option and is ideally suited for the BOUNCY WICKET at Kensington. He bowls a lively fast-medium in the mid to high 80's(mph) and will provide some of the" FIRE" the writer claims was lacking. He's a HOSTILE & AGRESSIVE fast bowler who will put FEAR in the hearts of Indian batsmen. His inclusion will not WEAKEN but actually STRENGTHEN our batting in light of the FRAGILITY of our TOP ORDER batsmen. I was shocked he was not included in the 1st test after his OUTSTANDING MATCH-WINNING PERFORMANCES in the ODI's because the result would have been different. ROACH is LOW on confidence so RUSSELL is a better option for 2nd test.

  • Sialkoti on June 24, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    Day dreamers never get successful. WI need to come out of dreams and use current resources properly. Simple example, WI is currently fighting against their best batsman Gayle over an IPL stint and some statements. Bravo is also excluded from the team. Teams win by match winning players not like so called okay players like Sammy and more. But it takes to much time to regroup a team and if you push hard on great player like Chanderpaul he will not perform to . Give respect to your good players and they will perform. Sarwan seems to be a dead batsman and may be it is due to the coach of WI. Who knows. There are lots of problems in WI and they need to solve them.

  • al on June 24, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    If Sammy is not a puppet of the board, he is the greatest allrounder ever. Sir Garfield, take a bow.

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